Singletrack is an independent magazine and website for mountain biking enthusiasts. They have been shortlisted, Carolyn Morgan writes, for the 2012 Media Pioneer Awards for their subscriptions success, focused on their print magazine.
Publisher Mark Alker has decided to relaunch the magazine in March 2012, with a significant investment in design and paper, somewhat against the trend in publishing businesses. Here’s why he is doing it and a rather clever way he is leveraging the relationships he has with specialist retailers.
Digital content has driven interest in print subscriptions
As Singletrack has developed its website, social media presence, iPad edition, Kindle publications et al, all of which have a higher profit margin than print, it has noted a significant surge in interest in print subscriptions.
Focus on subscriptions rather than retail sales
Singletrack has found the newstrade very volatile and vulnerable to external events. Meanwhile subscriptions are controllable, and subscribers are the most loyal supporters of the magazine. Subs are 100% efficient, and costs are predictable, while retail sales are erratic and wastage costs £35k pa.
Magazine relaunched as a product for subscribers
So, says Mark, “The magazine is being redesigned as a product for subscribers and not newsagent browsers. This means our designers have more freedom to design amazing looking magazines without having to worry about g-spots, key words and awful cover lines (cover lines are wasted on subscribers). Because the magazine is efficient when aimed predominantly at subscribers we can take waste savings and put that back into improving the paper stock. So Singletrack will be relaunching as a much fatter, better quality feeling product (pages up from 85gm to 115gm). The overall impression for subscribers will be a heavier 'thunk' on the mat and a magazine that feels almost like a book.”
The cover price is going up but the subs price will be held. This will mean losses in the high street but an uplift in subs. So far this strategy has grown subscriptions by 20% year on year.
The bike industry is supportive of the increase in magazine production values and the focus on subscriptions.
Subscribers get access to all digital content
All digital products will be available to subscribers as part of their subscription. Mark believes that enthusiasts want to access their content in whatever format is most convenient at the time. The website is Singletrack’s most valuable promotional tool, so that will be where all the subscription and multi-media content will be channelled.
Singletrack are also working on an app that will ultimately be free to download, and guide users to subscribe in-App via the Singletrack website so they get access to all their subs content and benefits.
Repackaged content used as ebooks and paperbacks
Content from the magazine has been packaged as ebooks for Kindle and iPad, which are proving extremely popular, and the ebooks are used as subscriber benefits, with thousands being delivered digitally to subscribers. Some ebooks have been recreated in print as paperbacks, such as a collection of popular columnists, and have sold like hotcakes.
Vouchers for retailers to drive subscriptions
But the cleverest idea is working with bike shops to promote subscriptions. They get iTunes style voucher cards with a unique voucher code for website sign-up that tracks back to the store that sold it. The retailer gets a margin on every subscription they sell. Subscribers can select digital only or print and digital.
What makes this approach innovative is the focus on providing a multi-channel package for subscribers, and using the website to drive enthusiasts to subscribe. Plenty to be learnt by other niche publishers.
The Media Pioneer Awards recognise innovation and entrepreneurial achievement in specialist consumer and B2B markets. Winners are announced at the Specialist Media Show on 24 May 2012. We’re delighted to welcome Audience Media as sponsor for the 2012 Media Pioneer Awards. Audience Media provide a publishing solution with a single CMS to publish to web, print and tablet plus subscription management.